Q+A: the city/rural divide

Fonterra have been doing a lot of advertising on television lately – are they trying to win over public opinion? Or is it too late?

On demand:

Another reason not to go to Auckland

Phil Goff and the Auckland City Council have voted for a ‘bed tax’. This is purportedly to get hotels and motels to partially pay for the cost of staging events in Auckland, but it imposes costs on just some accommodation options and will cost everyone who uses them regardless of whether they are visiting Auckland for an organised event or not.

It also makes the cost of doing business in Auckland more expensive.

Perhaps this is a sly way of trying to get the Government to fund their events, given that motels are being state funded to house homeless and hard to accommodate people.

Stuff: Auckland Mayor Goff’s ‘bed tax’ passes 10-7

A controversial ‘bed tax’ will go ahead, with Auckland Council’s Governing Body voting 10-7 in favour of the proposal on Thursday afternoon.

It will see nightly room rates bumped up between $3-$6 for hotels and $1-$3 for motels.

The targeted accommodation rate will see hotels and motels charged extra to partially offset the cost of staging major events in the city.

Goff said it would free up $13.5 million of ratepayer funding which could be used to bolster transport and infrastructure.

He has previously said hotels and motels could pass on the cost to tourists as a surcharge.

“With the targeted rate on accommodation we are asking accommodation providers to meet half of the cost of tourism marketing and events which previously fell totally on Auckland ratepayers,” he said.

“It’s only fair that those who benefit directly from events that promote tourism share in that cost.”

But is it fair to make accommodation providers and visitors who have nothing to do with tourism promotion and events to pay to subsidise the events? No.

It seems to exclude other accommodation providers like holiday rentals, home stays and Airbnb.  Campervans are another popular mode of accommodation that escape the tax.

TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said it was based on bad information and a poor understanding of the workings of the visitor economy.

The commercial accommodation sector has repeatedly offered to work with the Council to find a fair and sustainable way to make an appropriate contribution to the city’s visitor and event promotion activities. That offer still stands.”

He said it could be a “considerable time” before accommodation providers knew how much they would have to pay.

Accommodation providers would be able to apply to the council for a rates remission, taking into account any forward bookings they might have, but there would be no guarantee, he said.

Has the cost of administering all of this been taken into account? It sounds heavily bureaucratic.

It seems to be a poorly and unfairly targeted tax on some accommodation providers.

Is this the best Phil Goff could come up with?

City quality of life good

Despite the doom and gloom picture painted by some in politics in a new survey most city dwellers in New Zealand say that the overall quality of life is either very good or good (from 78% to 88%, total 81%), with only a few percent thinking it is poor or in the case of a couple of cities, very poor (from 2% to 4%).

Dunedin topped the rankings but only by a negligible margin over Wellington.

It’s not surprising that Christchurch has the lowest extremely good+good ranking, but only Hamilton and Porirua register (just) on ‘extremely poor’.

Results by city council:

cityqualityoflife2016

 

The cities surveyed cover 65% of the new Zealand population. Margins of error range from 1.9%-4.4%, overall 1.3%. Tauranga is not included.

The Quality of Life Project

…was initiated in 1999 in response to growing pressures on urban communities, concern about the impacts of urbanisation and the effects of this on the wellbeing of residents.

The project was a collaboration between councils represented in Local Government New Zealand’s Local Government Metro Sector forum.

The key purpose of the project was to provide information to decision-makers to improve the quality of life in major New Zealand urban areas.

Overall nine council report

“Ten biggest threats to nature in the city”

An Auckland University study, using experts from New Zealand, Australia and the UK, and has identified “the ten biggest future threats to nature in the city” .

Some of these so-called threats may be a surprise.

Top 10 threats to nature in the city

A new study, led by researchers in the University of Auckland’s School of Biological Sciences, brought together experts from Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand to identify current trends and new technologies that pose the biggest threat to urban ecosystems.

The list includes advances in technology aimed at lessening human impact on the environment.

“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater – some of these new technologies bring a range of environmental benefits,” lead author Dr Margaret Stanley says.

“But clever solutions are going to be needed to mitigate threats to urban biodiversity if we are to maintain our connection with nature as we become increasingly urbanised.”

There is growing evidence that the natural world is a benefit to human health and wellbeing, particularly if more and more of us are going to be living in cities in the future, the study authors say.

Top 10 Potential threats

  1. Health demands on greenspace: As more people are encouraged to use green urban spaces for exercise, these spaces can become highly maintained for people rather than wildlife; with more tracks, artificial lighting and fewer plants.
  2. Digital replacement of nature: There is a risk that nature in cities could be replaced with digital equivalents of nature, such as images and sound recordings. This gives people some of the benefits of nature, but without the maintenance and messy side of nature, however it could lead to city dwellers undervaluing nature in their immediate environment.
  3. Scattered cremains (material resulting from cremation): There has been a growing trend for cremation as space for burial of human remains is at a premium. However, in some cities land for interring cremains has become very expensive and scattering cremains has become more culturally acceptable. Because of high levels of phosphate and calcium in cremains, there is a risk of polluting urban ecosystems and waterways.
  4. Spread of disease by urban cats: Globally, there are now more than 600 million pet cats, and the increase in pet cat ownership is resulting in the disease toxoplasma spilling over into wildlife populations, in urban areas as well as to species in more remote locations, such as the endangered Hector’s dolphin.
  5. Switch to LED lights: Cities across the globe are switching their lighting technology to LED lights. However, the whiter spectrum of LED lights overlaps with the visual systems of wildlife and can disrupt their physiology and behaviour.
  6. Solar cities: Many cities are implementing city-wide solar panel installation programmes. However, solar panels can disrupt the behaviour and reproduction of animals that are attracted to the polarised light they produce.
  7. Nanotechnology: Nanoparticles (e.g. graphene) are now an increasing but invisible part of cities, found in everything from smartphones to clothing. However, there has been almost no research on the effects of these particles on animals, plants and entire ecosystems.
  8. Self-healing concrete: This is a new concrete product infused with specialised bacteria is about to be commercialised. If use of this product becomes widespread, it could spell the end for the often unique biodiversity that currently manages to thrive in cracked concrete all around cities.
  9. Energy efficient homes: Many countries are implementing large-scale retrofitting of buildings to make them more energy efficient. However, this effectively seals the building off from the outside, resulting in loss of breeding sites for wildlife such as bats and nesting birds.
  10. Drones: The recent popularity of using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) in cities is likely to result in issues for wildlife, such as nesting birds, which are particularly sensitive to stress and repeated aerial disturbance.

The study is published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.